It's 1927 and Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues, strides into a rundown Chicago recording studio to join a battling quartet of musicians. The great playwright August Wilson places this formidable artist at the center of a captivating drama of flamboyant personalities, professional jealousy, and shattered dreams. Directed by Lou Bellamy, Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM plays in Tucson at the Temple of Music and Art from October 16 through November 6. It continues its run in Phoenix at the Herberger Theater Center from November 11 through November 28. The Tucson media sponsors for the 2010-2011 season are KGUN9, MIX-FM and Tucson Lifestyle. Arizona Theatre Company's season sponsors are I. Michael and Beth Kasser.
A powerful look at the price of fame and the costs of discrimination, Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM is the play that launched August Wilson into the center of the American theatre.The first of Wilson's plays to reach Broadway, it began his monumental series of ten plays examining the African-American experience in each decade of the twentieth century.The play is a gripping drama from the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, who gives us a look at a time when even the most legendary singer of her day had to fight for every scrap of respect she could get. Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM stars a ten-member ensemble of actors with a long list of credits in Wilson's work and features the renowned actor and recording artist Jevetta Steele as Ma Rainey. This play contains mature themes and language.
Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM is a co-production with Penumbra Theatre Company. After the run at ATC, it will play a special engagement at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis from February 11 through March 6, 2011.
"August Wilson's ten play cycle is one of the greatest achievements in the history of the American theatre," said ATC Artistic Director David Ira Goldstein, "We have previously producEd Wilson's FENCES, SEVEN GUITARS and JITNEY, but have been waiting for years until we could assemble the best possible team of artists to take on Ma Rainey, a particularly rich stew of powerful drama, poetic writing, grand themes and rich characters that requires a special hand at the helm. ATC audiences were bowled over by Lou Bellamy's award-winning productions of JITNEY and A RAISIN IN THE SUN, so I am pleased beyond measure that our friend is returning to direct for us again. Lou has a very unique and special way with Wilson's plays that exposes their deep, shattering power."
Lou Bellamy (Director) returns to Arizona Theatre Company where he directed A Raisin in the Sun and Jitney. He is the founder and artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company. Under his leadership, Penumbra has produced 23 world premieres, including August Wilson's first professional production, and is proud to have produced more of Mr. Wilson's plays than any theatre in the world. Mr. Bellamy is an Obie Award-winning director, an accomplished actor and sought-after scholar. Recent directing credits include Penumbra's production of Gem of the Ocean presented at the Guthrie Theater, Fences and The Piano Lesson at Penumbra Theatre Company, Two Trains Running at the Signature Theatre in New York, Jitney at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the staged reading of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Kennedy Center.
Jevetta Steele (Ma Rainey) appeared on Broadway in The Gospel at Colonus and has performed in the national/international tours of The Gospel at Colonus, Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, Bagdad Café-The Musical, The Sounds of Blackness and The Night Before Christmas. In the Minneapolis area, she has performed with Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood Theatre and Penumbra Theatre Company, among others. Her film credits include Corrina, Corrina; Hoop Dreams; Born to be Wild; Graffiti Bridge and Bagdad Café (for which she received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Song for "Calling You"). She is a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion and has four gold records to her credit. She can be heard on her solo CDs, Here It Is and My Heart, as well as the original cast recording of Two Queens, One Castle.
The cast of Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM also features returning ATC actors James Craven (Cutler), who appeared in ATC's Jitney. He was seen on Broadway in Gospel at Colonus. He is a long-time Penumbra Theatre Company member, appearing in over 35 shows. He has several film credits, including the soon-to-be-released Convincer with Greg Kinnear and Inheritance with Keith David. Abdul Salaam El Razzac (Toledo) also appeared in Jitney at ATC. He has performed with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Penumbra Theatre Company, Mark Taper Forum, Guthrie Theater andSouth Coast Repertory, among others. His many television and film credits include Star Trek: The Next Generation, Frasier, The Division, 8 Mile, Malcolm X, Glory, Pretty Woman and Conversations With God. James T. Alfred (Levee) returns to Arizona Theatre Company where he appeared in Jitney and To Kill a Mockingbird. His regional credits include The Public Theater, Court Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Kansas City Repertory Theater, Round House Theatre and Penumbra Theatre Company. Film and television credits include The Line (Pilot), Son of America, Prison Break and One Week, among others.
The cast also includes Lerea Carter (Dussie Mae), who has worked with Penumbra Theatre Company over the past three years and made her professional acting debut in 2007 with the role of Grace in their production of The Piano Lesson. William John Hall, Jr. (Slow Drag) appeared most recently in Fences, a co-production of Seattle Repertory Theatre and Syracuse Stage. He has worked internationally in China and Russia and Vancouver, British Columbia. His many regional stops range from Portland, Maine (Portland Stage Company) to Gainesville, Florida (Hippodrome), with most shows in Seattle, Washington. His film credits include Driving Miss Daisy and Trouble in Mind. Phil Kilbourne (Irvin) has appeared with Penumbra Theatre Company, The Jungle Theatre, Park Square Theatre, Frank Theatre and New Century Theatre. He directed the Complete Sonnets Festival 2010 in Minneapolis this past May, and is the Resident Director for Theatre at Work. Michael Tezla (Sturdyvant) has appeared in New York at Circle in the Square. His regional credits include work at Goodman Theatre, Guthrie Theater, Court Theatre and Park Square Theatre. His film credits include A Serious Man, Holiday Beach, The Quietest Sound and World and Time Enough. Ahanti Young (Sylvester) is an actor, percussionist, and spoken word artist. He has been seen in several Penumbra Productions, including The Day The Bronx Died, Geneva Cottrell - Waiting for the Dog to Die, Jitney, Black Eagles, Darker Face of The Earth, Two Trains Running, Zoo Man and the Sign and, most recently, REDSHIRTS. Brendan Guy Murphy (Policeman) is familiar to Tucson theatre audiences through his performances with The Rogue Theatre, Arizona Repertory Theatre, Invisible Theatre and perennially with the LaughingStock Comedy Company, among others. He is the recipient of the 2008 Buffalo Exchange Arts Award.
The creative team for Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM includes Vicki Smith (Set Design), who returns to ATC where she has designed 18 shows, including The Kite Runner, A Raisin in the Sun, and Jitney. She has also designed at many regional theatres across the country. Ms. Smith won a DramaLogue Award for Cyrano, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for Execution of Justice and The Kite Runner, and Denver Drama Critics Circle Awards for I'm Not Rappaport and Pierre, which was selected for the Prague Quadrennial Design Exposition 2007. Matthew J. LeFebvre (Costume Designer) returns to ATC where he designed costumes for A Raisin in the Sun and Jitney. His Off-Broadway credits include Two Trains Running and Bach at Leipzig. Mr. LeFebvre has designed costumes for twenty productions at Guthrie Theater, as well as several Penumbra Theatre Company shows. Other regional credits includeMilwaukee Repertory Theater, Trinity Repertory Company, The Cleveland Play House and Geffen Playhouse. Don Darnutzer (Lighting Designer) has been working at ATC since 1981. His most recent designs include Touch the Names; Love, Janis; and I Am My Own Wife. He designed the lighting for Broadway's production of It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues and Off-Broadway's Hank Williams: Lost Highway, Almost Heaven and The Immigrant. He has worked for American Conservatory Theater, Guthrie Theater, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Cleveland Play House, Seattle Repertory Theatre and BB King's Blues Club, among many others. Brian Jerome Peterson (Resident Sound Designer) celebrates his 25th season at ATC, where he has designed 62 productions. His designs have been heard in many theatres includingBerkeley Repertory Theatre,Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Cleveland Play House, Actors Theatre of Louisville and San Jose Repertory Theatre. Sanford Moore (Musical Director) has worked at Penumbra Theatre Company on Black Pearls Sings, Black Nativity, Whipping Man, Piano Lesson, Gem of the Ocean, Ain't Misbehavin', Get Ready, Blue and Diana Was. His other regional credits include Guthrie Theater, Dallas Theatre Center, Horizon Theater, Mixed Blood Theater and Illusion Theater.Brent Gibbs (Fight Director) returns to ATC where he was Fight Director for To Kill a Mockingbird and Twelfth Night. He serves as the Head of the Acting/Musical Theatre faculty at the University of Arizona where he teaches Acting and Stage Combat. This year he will direct Dracula and As You Like It at the Arizona Repertory Theatre, where he serves as Artistic Director. Bruno Ingramis the Stage Manager.